Unbeaten. Untied. Let’s see if the county’s two high school football teams are also unimpressive or if they have used the short preparation time and minimal practice schedules allowed by the state and two scrimmages to be fully prepared when Washington is one of the first teams in the state to play and Jefferson attempts to launch a successful season the next night.
Washington is coming off a 5-5 season when it goes to Hedgesville on Thursday at 7 p.m. Both teams will be missing last year’s quarterbacks with Tyler Wilt’s health keeping him out and Hedgesville’s Troy Markley sidelined with a broken leg. Both quarterbacks have been two-year starters.
The Eagles dealt Washington a season-opening loss in 2011, winning by four touchdowns.
How well will Washington adjust without Wilt? How well will Hedgesville adjust to playing without Markley?
Does either team’s offensive or defensive line have an advantage? Without experienced quarterbacks on either side, the game could be decided by the linemen.
Mistakes often figure heavily in season openers. No matter what transpired in the simulated games where coaching staffs stand 20 yards behind both the offense and defense and special teams work is minimal, the season opener is altogether different.
Penalties, lost fumbles, interceptions, and gaffes by special teams can often cloud any team’s opener.
If the teams have equal linemen, it can be one or two quick-footed skill position players who will be the difference.
With the transitory nature of Washington’s offense, the Patriots may be reliant on their overall defense and one or two playmakers to get their season off on a winning note.
Drew Hetzel, Colin Gustines, Diego Delgado, and Tony Vazquez were all defensive contributors in 2011.
Michael Grant was a starter at wide receiver last year.
Washington struggled to find an adequate punter and placekicker through all of the past season.
Coach Mark Hash is the only head coach in the Patriots’ previous four years of football. He is back again, this time looking to get off on the right foot against the Eagles, now coached by Rich Thomaselli.
Hedgesville just cancelled its jayvee football season, so the Eagles will have to concentrate all their energies at the varsity level.
There were a number of underclassmen starting in Hedgesville’s 2011 offensive and defensive lines. But Thomaselli lost Connor Shipley and Casey Horn to graduation and his string of first-year starters at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver is a long one.
On Friday, Jefferson is also on the road, going to western Loudoun County, for its opener. After scrimmages against Hampshire and Clarke County, the Cougars still have unanswered questions at many positions.
Playing up-and-coming Woodgrove, a school with enthusiasm for its teams (and state championships in several girls sports in 2011), Jefferson faces a Wolverine team that won last year’s season opener between the two schools.
The Wolverines were 3-6 last season and at times gave up over 40 points to some of the teams that beat them.
Andrew King is the sophomore, first-year starter at quarterback. King did play some as a freshman. With seniors Rynal Newman, Darrod Doleman, and Geoffrey Walker surrounding King as a running back and wide receivers, the Cougars do possess enough speed at the skill positions.
Casey McDonald and Sean Spotts are two senior linemen who played extensively in 2011.
Jefferson had one win last season and will have to find both offensive and defensive linemen in order to show marked improvement.
The defensive secondary has experience and quickness. How will Coach Richard Mills adequately fill his linebacker spots?
Opponents were successful at running and throwing against the Cougars. And all of them except Keyser scored enough points to defeat Jefferson.
Special teams have been just as problemed for Coach Mills. Finding a quality long snapper is the first order of business. And then finding a player with some punting skills follows closely.
With Newman to return kickoffs and punts, the Cougars could threaten opponents with his open-field ability.
Woodgrove is a school with excellent facilities and a thirst for winning games no matter the sport or the season.
Support from the families of players is always present. And interest in the school’s athletic programs is very high even from outside the school’s student population.
Woodgrove is missing some of its better athletes from the 2011 team . . . but the Wolverines will be competitive and spirited again this season.
Unbeaten. Untied. Can either Washington or Jefferson be impressive?